N.L. country artists finding success on national and international level during pandemic

·3 min read
 (Chris LeDrew/Ritche Perez/Submitted - image credit)
(Chris LeDrew/Ritche Perez/Submitted - image credit)

Mallory Johnson and Justin Fancy are attracting national and international attention through their music this year.

The two country songwriters from Conception Bay South are both finding individual success amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Fancy won the best country music video at the Canadian Independent Video Music Awards in 2020, and last month was named rising star of the year and country artist of the year by Music NL.

Johnson won the Canadian Country Music Association's spotlight award in 2017 and headed for Nashville to make a run at the music business while collecting an East Coast Music Award along the way. Her new single, Wise Woman, written with Carli and Julie Kennedy, has caught the attention of Billboard magazine — the industry standard record chart in the United States.

"This is definitely a passion project for us, and it's been overwhelming to see the support from everybody," Johnson, 31, told CBC News of her newest release.

"The music video, for me, is my favourite part of it all. Especially because there's so many people I love in the video I look up to and I'm inspired by."

Johnson has been in the music business for years, first cutting her teeth as a musician as part of her family's band The Cormiers.

For Fancy, he's been working the stages of Newfoundland and Labrador's music scene well before receiving any recognition. He told CBC News there are two sides to the industry: the live aspect and the recording aspect.

The 34-year-old works in information technology and is raising a daughter, but this year he found a push help get him to where he wants to go.

"I really had not dug into the recording arts side of things as a country artist until January of this year. So I think the 'rising star' is valid in that context itself," he said.

"The real motivation for me came from my producer that I met Clint Curtis. He lives in Springdale and he's producing some of the best music in Canada right now."

Fancy said his recent award feels surreal, though the pandemic year has been difficult by not being able to play gigs for live audiences. But, Fancy said, he has been able to take advantage of social media to help build his brand.

"I've worked awful hard in the last year or so, a new record, and always had it in my mind that I was going to do this," he said.

"I think my daughter is old enough now to start understanding what it means to me, and what music means to me. It's been a great ride these last couple of months."

As for a hometown connection, both Johnson and Fancy have known each other for a while. Johnson said she was good friends with Fancy's younger brother, and both had become friends through the province's local music scene.

"It's been really cool to kind of celebrate each other's music. It's been really special," Johnson said.

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